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Determination of Water Potential in a Plant Part

Water potential is defined as the tendency of water to enter or leave a cell. Water moves from a region of their higher concentration to a region of lower concentration by osmosis. Water potential can also be defined as the measure of the free energy of water to move from one place to another. The water potential of a cell or tissue is the same as that of the liquid with which the tissue is in equilibrium. Water potential can be determined by finding a solution in which the tissue neither increases nor decreases in volume or mass. In this particular practical, we had measured the components of water potential in potato tubers Solanum tuberosum. The potato tubers are placed in a range of solutions with varying concentration and the change in the tissue volume or weight is noted after achieving equilibration with solute potential of the external solution in which they were immersed within a certain time lapse. When the results are obtained, the percentage gain or loss in mass is plotted against the solute potential of the external solution. From the graph, the water potential of the tissue can be determined, and this is where the graph cuts the x-axis. Moreover, this method also gives a rough indication of the solute potential for the vacuolar sap, in that after incipient plasmolysis the tissue no longer loses weight or volume, the space between wall and protoplast being filled by the external solution (Wilkins, 1984; after Kassam, 1972).

Materials and method

1.21 Materials:
Potato tuber (Solanum tuberosum) cork borer petri dishes small bottles with their caps Electronic balance Aluminium foil tissue paper


1. Mannitol solutions were prepared at the following concentrations: 0.10M, 0.15M, 0.20M, 0.25M, 0.30M, 0.35M, 0.40M, 0.45M and 0.50M 2. Sufficient cylinders were cut from freshly peeled potato tubers using a cork borer and the cylinders were trimmed to 3cms in length and are placed in petri dishes which are then properly covered. 3. 20 ml of each of the above solution of different concentrations was transferred in the different small bottles. 4. Each potato cylinder was weighed separately and placed into each small bottle. 5. At intervals of 30 minutes, the mass of each potato cylinders in the different bottles was measured. Initially, small pieces of aluminium foil were cut and these aid in facilitating measurement of the mass. 6. Masses were taken till equilibrium was reached that is, till no further change in mass is noted .

The following table 1.41gives an overview of the dilution of mannitol solutions and the masses obtained.

Besides, the values of osmotic potential of the different solutions are also recorded. The osmotic potential of the solution of varying concentrations are calculated from the respective relationship (Vant Hoff, 1887),

s = -CiRT

Whereby, s is the osmotic potential C is the concentration of the solution in molality, which is defined as 1 mole of solute dissolved in 1 litre of solution i is a constant that accounts for the ionisation of the solute and/ or other deviations from perfect solutions, but, in this particular case whereby mannitol was used, i = 1.0 as it is a non ionised molecule R is a gas constant= 0.00831 kg.Mpa mol-1k-1 or 0.00831 kg.kJ mol-1 k-1 T is the absolute temperature (in K) = degrees C + 273. For this practical, T = 22 + 273 = 295K 22 was the room temperature in degrees C

Note: the concentration of mannitol was in mol/dm3that is in molarity , however in the above equation the C is the concentration of solution in molality. Molarity and molality are two different things. But in the practical, 1kg of water is equal to1 dm3 so no conversion is required